Publication Announcement – Genesis manuscript

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By Andrea H. Everett

The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of an electronic edition of the Genesis manuscript from the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In the last year of his life, Blake began an illuminated manuscript of the biblical Book of Genesis for his patron, John Linnell. Of its eleven large leaves, probably cut from Whatman Imperial-sized wove paper, the first two are title pages. The text on leaves 3-11 closely follows chapters 1-4 of the King James Bible, decorated with sketched headpieces, tailpieces, and interlinear designs, with chapter headings of Blake’s own invention that align the biblical creation narrative with his myth of creation, division, and forgiveness. His insertion of “adamah” after most appearances of “ground” in the English text shows Blake’s (and his patron’s) engagement with the original Hebrew, underscores Blake’s view that the creation of the first man was a descent into materiality, and suggests that Adam was originally androgynous because “adamah” is a feminine noun.

Like the title pages of a number of Blake’s early illuminated books, his lettering of the Genesis titles is closely integrated with the illustrations. The reason for variant title pages is not clear, though perhaps Linnell responded unfavorably …read more